Starting Seeds Indoors
This time of year our green thumbs start getting anxious to get back out into the garden. While spring is still some time away, there are some things we can do to scratch that gardening itch. One is to start sprouting some seeds so that when spring comes, we’re ready to get planting!
The first thing to think about when starting seeds is to only start what you need. There are a lot of seeds in one seed packet. Consider storing unused seeds in a cool dry place that doesn’t freeze so you can use those seeds the following year. You could also consider pairing up with a friend or neighbor to split the seeds.
Once you’ve decided what to grow, you need to make sure you don’t start the seeds too early! A general rule is to start seeds indoors about 6 weeks before you plan to move them outside. And remember that most seedlings should not be moved outside until after the last threat of freezing has passed. For a more in depth idea of when you should be starting which seeds, go to http://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates/ON/London. According to this, January is the month to start some cold-crop veggies such as Brussel sprouts, kale, leek, parsnips and Swiss chard.
Follow the seed packet instructions. It will tell you if you need to soak or chill seeds before planting them.
Before you start planting, make sure your containers are clean. Whether you’re using peat pots or a planting tray (with an easy to use plastic greenhouse topper), make sure they are sterile before you begin. Also make sure there are drainage holes in your container of choice.
It’s also a great idea to label your containers NOW! You don’t want to get to the point of transplanting your seedlings and have no idea what they are (which happens more than I’d like to admit)!
Use a seed starting mix to fill your containers. It is a lighter soil mix with more perlite and vermiculite to allow more air flow. To fill your containers, moisten the seed starting mix with warm water and fill containers to just below the rim.
Plant your seeds according to the packet instructions. For most seeds you can just gently press them into the soil (use the tip of your finger or the tip of a pencil eraser to press them into the soil). Note: choose the largest seeds for best results.
Cover the containers with plastic, making sure to poke holes for ventilation (this step is incredible easy if you’re using a pre-fabricated mini seed starting greenhouse – all you have to do at this stage is put on the lid!).
Water your seeds as directed, trying not to disturb the soil.
Find a warm spot in the house (you don’t need to worry about light just yet!). Seeds sprout best between 18 – 24 degrees Celsius. To give your seeds the best start, consider using a seedling heat mat. They keep a consistently warm temperature to promote germination and growth.
Once the seedlings sprout, remove the plastic (or lid) and move them into bright light.
Once the seedlings grow their second set of leaves, transplant them into individual pots (be careful moving the seedlings and water them well). Once transplanted, it’s a good idea to keep them out of bright light for a couple days to reduce stress.